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Julian v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 18, 2015



RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Michael D. Julian's ("Julian") application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Julian alleges disability due to inoperable cysts on his spine, emphysema, COPD, and a mass on his lung. (Tr. 23).[1]

I. Background

On March 4, 2011, Julian filed his application for a Period of Disability, Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), alleging disability beginning February 1, 2007. The Commissioner denied Julian's Application initially on April 19, 2011, and Julian filed his request for a hearing on May 13, 2011. On August 13, 2012, Julian amended his onset to date to January 15, 2010. On August 27, 2012, Julian appeared for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ").

In the ALJ's decision, dated September 24, 2012, the ALJ denied Julian's Application for benefits. On October 4, 2012, Julian timely filed his Request for Review of Hearing Decision. The Appeals Council denied Julian's Request for Review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision in the case and exhausting Julian's administrative remedies.

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ determined that Julian has the following severe impairments: lumbar pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression with anxiety, and polysubstance abuse. (Tr. 13). The ALJ found that Julian does not suffer from an impairment or combination of impairments of a severity that meets or medically equals the required severity of a listing. (Tr. 21). The ALJ found that Julian retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work, except limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out at least simple instructions and non-detailed tasks; and, no performing work which includes more than infrequent handling of customer complaints. (Tr. 22). The ALJ determined Julian could perform his past relevant work as a duplicating machine operator or, in the alternative, that Julian retained the RFC to perform the full range of light work. (Tr. 25-26).

III. Administrative Record

The following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.

A. Hearing Testimony

1. Julian's Testimony

Julian testified on August 27, 2012 as follows.

Julian lives in an apartment in St. Charles, Missouri with his sister and fifteen year old nephew. (Tr. 35). Julian has three years of college but has not taken any classes by computer or correspondence. (Tr. 35). In the early 2000s, he tried to be an artist. (Tr. 36). He worked as a crew member for Burger King in 2010 and for McDonald's in 2009. (Id.) He worked for Monsanto as an account manager, managing up to 60 people. (Tr. 37-38). He was a manager at Jack-in-the Box. (Tr. 38). He received unemployment benefits in 1995 or 1996. (Tr. 39). He was in prison from February 2007 through March 2008 for fraudulently attempting to obtain a controlled substance. (Tr. 39). He was also in jail before that. (Tr. 39).

Julian did one 180-day drug treatment program through the Department of Corrections but has not done any other treatment programs. (Tr. 39). He has never been hospitalized for alcohol or drugs. (Tr. 40).

Julian has been seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Baram, since September 2011. (Tr. 40). He was hospitalized then at the St. Vincent DePaul hospital. (Tr. 40). He has been hospitalized about five or six times for suicidal attempts and depression; he claims they were not drug related. (Tr. 40-41). He was hospitalized also at St. John's Mercy Hospital for depression. (Tr. 41). He was hospitalized at St. Luke's for a mass on his left leg and emphysema. (Tr. 41).

He stopped smoking a pack of cigarettes per day about eight months ago. (Tr. 41-42). He now smokes about 10 cigarettes per day. (Tr. 42).

He has cysts on his spine, his L3-L5, that cause pain in his spine and legs. (Tr. 42-43). He takes OxyContin twice a day. (Tr. 43). It makes him tired. He has to nap once a day. He doesn't drive very often. (Tr. 43). His sister drove him to the hearing and drives him to his doctor's appointments and the ER. (Tr. 43-44).

His psychiatrist is treating him for chronic depression. (Tr. 44). He has suicidal thoughts and attempted to cut his wrists in 2011. (Tr. 44). He takes Cymbalta, Prozac and Ambien. (Tr. 44).

On a typical day, he wakes up at 7:00 a.m., gets cleaned up, gets dressed, takes his medication, and prepares a meal for himself. (Tr. 45). About four or five days a ...

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